This is a headline that one does not see very often and it is my hope that it will be proven untrue in the near future.
The New York State Teachers’ Retirement System is, to my understanding, a very effective system. My unscientific polling of various teachers has indicated to me that there is great satisfaction with the NYSTRS. Many people are working hard to make sure the teachers that work hard get the benefits they deserve. There is nothing but praise to be said for this.
It is with this understanding that I am hesitant to raise this issue. I am upset about the fact that the NYSTRS invests in defense companies that produce weapons or supplies for military operations or installations. At least ten major defense companies have been invested with $347,919,702.65 by New York State Teachers. (Please see chart)(Source: NYSTRS December 2008 Investing Thingy).
As teachers, we work to ensure that a civilized society can prosper. How often do we break up fights, resolve conflicts, or show our students better ways of interacting? Teachers have no business in fueling empire and their investments should reflect this. Investments like this undercut any injunctions by classroom teachers in which they encourage students to put integrity before greed.
Some may contend that weapons are necessary for self-defense and that there is nothing wrong with investing in military companies. Indeed, wouldn’t I be grateful to have a military to defend me against people who would attack me? Indeed, I would. However, a defended nation typically has its defenders residing in its country and not in foreign lands. It cannot be ignored that our military, which should be used for defense, has been employed in wars of aggression and occupation. It cannot be ignored that the United States has the most nuclear weapons of any country in the world nor does the occupation of our vast country seem likely. The fact that it is common knowledge that wars of aggression are being fought and that teacher money is helping to fuel them does not sit well with me. It is hypocritical for teachers to encourage peace in class while encouraging war outside of it.
I propose that the NYSTRS stop investing in defense companies and that members should lobby for this change. If this is objectionable perhaps, in addition to the current investment portfolio, an alternative investment portfolio could be created in which defense companies do not play a part; therefore, satisfying those who both approve and disapprove of investments in defense companies. Primarily, it is my hope that the current investment portfolio is replaced by one that reflects values of peace.